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Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


We are familiar with the scenes of Jesus entering the city on a donkey (think Shrek to remember quite how ridiculous a creature the donkey is!) humble and a man of peace, yet being greeted as a king.  Luke, however, records that he pauses on the donkey, in the midst of all the hosannas:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it (Luke 19:41, NIV)

He is overcome, in the midst of all the praise, by the needs of the people.  He knows that they will fail to see who he is and fail to understand the salvation he brings.

Food for the journey

If you have the opportunity today – go to somewhere with a view over the village, estate, suburb, town or city that you are part of.  As you look, ask Jesus to show you what moves him to compassion – the needs of the people.  Invite Jesus to come into the community, and welcome him in, praising God.

Accompanying children and young people

Matthew 21: 15b-16 NIV

But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.  “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.  “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants, you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

Children were very much part of the first palm Sunday crowd – not just in the streets but also in the temple.  So encourage some children to practice shouting some Hosannas!

Jesus is coming – SHOUT HOSANNA

He’s riding a donkey – SHOUT HOSANNA

Open the gates – SHOUT HOSANNA

Open the ancient doors – SHOUT HOSANNA

Don’t be afraid – SHOUT HOSANNA

Wave the branches – SHOUT HOSANNA

Spread out your coats – SHOUT HOSANNA

Peace in heaven – SHOUT HOSANNA

Glory in highest heaven – SHOUT HOSANNA

mayBe Community meeting a real donkey in the church yard of St Mary’s Church, Chalgrove on Palm Sunday – discovering they like to eat paper palms waved by children!


 Invite young people to take the donkey’s view of the day

Do you know anyone in your life who is overburdened?  How could you help?

Jesus said: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

Prayer of the donkey (by Sophie Piper), sharing in the work of Jesus – say it with passion this Palm Sunday:

Dear God

There are many who are overburdened with all the troubles of life.

May it be my privilege to help them.

Amen – hee-haw

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Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


I can imagine the whispering as Jesus and the disciples are walking up to the Mount of Olives. Is Jesus striding ahead as the disciples cluster in two or threes to discuss the extraordinary things he has said? Or is he walking slowly behind them saddened by the accusatory or puzzled looks that dart between them?

As a child I was always deeply shocked and saddened that the disciples slept while Jesus prayed. Didn’t they know his heart was breaking? Couldn’t they see the sweat glistening as blood, and hear the pain in his prayer? they were certain that nothing could happen to their Messiah, they had watched him heal the lame and the blind, feed over 5000 people with a small boy’s pack lunch, and raise his good friend from the dead. What could possibly go wrong? Why was he making such a fuss about their napping, he normally went off to pray on his own, what was so different about tonight?

And then they hear the footsteps in unison, and the clink of metal on leather, and before they know it they are surrounded by Roman soldiers, and Judas, their friend and travelling companion is betraying Jesus with a kiss. Peter grabs a sword and strikes out, but he is a fisherman not a soldier. Perhaps we imagine that the soldier’s ear just plops to the ground in silence, waiting for Jesus to pick it up. But the reality is that any aggressive move would have instantly galvanised his colleagues into action, and there would have been shouting and scuffling as he screamed and screamed in agony. Into this noise, roused dust, and the stench of fear, Jesus does indeed bring peace and healing as he returns the ear to its rightful place, and I wonder if the silence was palpable as the soldiers realise what has just happened.

But the path to death is relentless. In the light of what they have just seen, there may have been some discussion, or at least regret, but orders is orders, and Jesus is led from the garden a captive… The lamb taken to slaughter.

I wonder what I would have done in that garden. As an adult I appreciate the pull of sleep after good food and wine, but I still hope that I might have been the one that held Jesus as he wept and prayed, aware that he was choosing a way of pain and death, for me. But maybe I have been caught napping. As Jesus now weeps and prays for his broken world, my eyes, heavy with good food and wine, have not seen how I could welcome one of these.


I wonder too what it would have been like to furtively scurry through the garden of hope and life on Easter Sunday, not knowing that that’s what it was, heavy with the death of my beloved friend, eyes scarred by images of the brutal scenes I have seen, and the words ‘it is finished’ ringing in my ears. Would I have been whispering to the other women what to do to get passed the guards? Charm or defiance – well we’ll see when we get there. And then the precious oils and perfumes slip out of my hands as I stand aghast at the entrance to the tomb. He is gone. Desecration upon desecration, they have taken my Lord.

For me, Jesus’ single word ‘Mary’ is one of my favourite in the Bible. It is rich with knowledge of her and all she is and will be. It is the first human encounter with the risen Lord. It is the start of the life ever-after. It is full of hope and life. Jesus stands and calls each of us by name. When things are difficult and seem hopeless am I prepared to stop worrying and listen? Am I prepared to ‘name’ those around me in prayer and action and point to the one on whose hands their name is written?

Food for the journey

Go and lie down somewhere outside. Be prepared for it to be cold and wet, this adds to the experience. Try to imagine you are in the Garden of Gethsemane, what can you see, feel and smell? What might Jesus have stared at through his tears, or gripped with desperate hands? Pour out your own sorrows to the man of sorrows, and/or praise him that pain of his humanity brought him so close to giving up our salvation, but he still went ahead with the cross, for us.

Now imagine you have run from the tomb and collapsed in heap with grief that Jesus’ body has been taken. Listen to him saying your name. Rise to your knees and greet the risen Lord!

Accompanying children and young people

  • Read ‘The Easter Angels’ by Bob Hartman, illustrations by Sophie Williams. The illustrations are beautiful, and this powerful story of the resurrection morning has helpful links with the whole of God’s story
  • Make an Easter garden. Cat litter trays (empty and clean!) or paint trays make great bases. You can use soil, plants and moss, and/or coloured sand/stones like the ones for fish tanks. It can be a work of art, created with solemnity and a sense of the sacred, or it can be play thing, populated with play mobile/Lego people that act out the stories


  • Talk about who Jesus is weeping over in your community, and in what ways you can ‘name’ them. Find out if the Salvation Army or local Homeless Action Group are needing any extra help during the holidays


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Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Jesus clears the Temple

Having just arrived in Jerusalem to cheering crowds and willingly walking towards his death, just a few days away, Jesus enters the temple area and finds that they have turned his father’s house of prayer into a den of robbers. The synoptic gospels all give similar accounts of this event (Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48) and go on to record Jesus’ response to questioning by the chief priests and elders of the people (Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8).

The money changers provided a useful service as they would change the Roman coinage, in everyday use in the marketplace, into the ‘half shekel’ that Jews were required to offer to the Lord (Exodus 30: 13). This early Bureau de Change enabled them to charge a little extra on top and, given the numerous visitors to Jerusalem, made them a tidy profit. Then there were the birds that God required the Jews to offer as sacrifices such as the “a pair of doves or two young pigeons”, which Joseph and Mary would have offered following Jesus’ circumcision (Luke 2: 24) or the lambs and even cattle required for other sacrifices. It was obviously impractical for travellers to bring these with them over long journeys and so again it was a useful service to be able to buy them at the temple when they arrived in Jerusalem. Yet it became an excuse to cheat these visiting worshippers and particularly to further oppress those already in poverty. Consumed with zeal for his father’s house (Psalm 69: 9) Jesus is not just angry but compelled to do something. He has to act.


Food for the journey

Whoa, that’s scary . . .

That was the response of my 12 year old daughter as she looked over my shoulder while I was writing this and saw The Angry Christ by Lino Pontebon. It provoked a very interesting discussion when I told her it was supposed to be Jesus! I wonder what might make Jesus angry today and how he would respond.

Depending on our mental picture of Jesus, the account of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple may well be deeply unsettling. The meek and mild ‘Christmas card’ Jesus certainly wouldn’t do anything so un-Christian as to cause a scene like this in public – especially in church! Yet, far from being an uncharacteristic lapse in character, this is not the only account of Jesus responding angrily to those that had forgotten the meaning of worship and what the temple was supposed to represent. John (2:12-22) records a similar story at the start of Jesus’ ministry, some three years earlier. Having just performed his first miracle at Cana in Galilee, Jesus has some family time in Capernaum and then travels to Jerusalem ready for Passover. So enraged by the injustice he meets within the market place of the temple courts, Jesus fashions a whip out of cords and drives the sellers from the temple area.

Spend a few minutes looking at this image. What responses and questions does it provoke in you and why?

Accompanying children and young people
  • Look at the image together and consider: What might the Angry Christ be pointing at today? What areas of injustice and oppression make us angry: In our world; in our cities, towns or villages; in our churches?

During a recent lecture, one of our undergraduates recently talked about ‘armchair activists’, a phrase which I found deeply challenging. What practical things can you begin to do this Easter to make a practical difference in one or more of the areas you discussed?

Pray together that God would increasingly give us eyes to see and the courage to respond.

  • If you want to be a little more active with a group of young people or as a family, you could go outside and try this activity together.

Stick a couple of very large sheets of paper (e.g. flip chart) up on a wall/fence outside and as a group think about the questions above. Using marker pens, write words or draw pictures to represent things that make us rightly angry and miss what God intended for his world. Then dip pieces of toilet/kitchen roll in a bucket of water and chuck it at the words/pictures on the big paper for as long as it’s fun to do! As the words begin to slide and fade it is not only tremendously cathartic but opens opportunities to talk in as much depth as the group can cope with.

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Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Today we are gearing up to remember the last Supper Jesus had with his disciples before his crucifixion.  In preparation for this meal Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.

Simon Peter said “Master, you wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”  Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet – ever!” Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.” “Master!” said Peter. “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!” John 13:7-9

In this painting by Sieger Koder we see the reflection
of Jesus’ face in the bowl of water.Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues
hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist,
there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
St. Augustine
Food for the journey

Reflect upon the Image and pray

Lord, we enter your presence with soiled feet, calloused and dirty with the messiness of our lives. We have walked in the mire of selfishness and pride, not loving others as you have loved us. We are not able to wash ourselves, the stain is too great. Bring again the refreshing waters of our Baptism. Wash us and make us white as snow. Set our feet on the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Forgive us and make us clean. Amen

(Prayer from Lutheran Deaconess Association Valparaiso,IN)

Perhaps you could wash your own or a friend’s feet/ hands as you pray this prayer and reflect upon how Simon Peter must have felt.

Accompanying children and young people

Encourage young people to reflect upon ‘status’. Jesus was the Lord and yet he humbled himself to wash the feet of his friends. When could we serve others more? Talk about what opportunities you all have to serve each other in the time you have with them.

Jesus, you kneel before me
You remove my shoes and I am exposed
My feet are grimy
full of calluses and cracks
pungent with sweat and toe jam
I’m embarrassed by them
I pull back but you reassure
You’re not offended
I feel welcome in your hands
vulnerable, yet safe

The cleansing begins
I see your reflection in the ripples
I see me, too
Your water brings truth and life
Who I am and who I can be

I am whole and at home in the touch, the towel
You look at my neighbour and hand it to me

(poem © 2011 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia)

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Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Mark 14:32-42 (NIV)

Sometimes our calling is to watch and pray

For people who like action, this can seem very passive – yet it can be the most demanding of tasks.

A few years ago at a residential with young people, one young man became rather ill (linked to his diabetes).  On the doctor’s advice, youth workers took turns to watch over him through the night.  During my shift, I realised it was late night Maundy Thursday, when Jesus had asked his disciples to watch and pray.  It felt such a privilege to watch over and pray for this young man. He later expressed his amazement at the care we had shown him, and said no one from his family had ever stayed up all night with him.

Watching and praying means staying with those who are suffering, even when there does not seem to be any healing or resolution of the difficulties.  Watching and praying is the calling to be with others in the midst of the anguish.  Watching and praying is actively recalling that Jesus is found in the darkest night, because he has been there and come through to resurrection and new life.

Food for the journey

Listen to this Taize chant based on Mark 14 – ask for Jesus’ help to watch and pray, to stay with those in need (rather than to succumb to exhaustion).

 Stay with me

Accompanying children and young people

What do you find it hard to wait for? Which is hardest? Birthdays? Presents? Trips? Christmas?

What about waiting for difficult things? Going to the dentist/for an injection, being told off for something you have done, saying goodbye to someone you love? Detention?

Jesus asks his friends to wait with him for the difficult things that he knows are going to happen in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Say this pray together and remember that you are one of Jesus’ friends through out the whole Easter story:

We tell your story

We follow in your footsteps



We walk towards the city

We wait in the garden



We journey towards death

We hope for resurrection


With young people – listen to U2’s ‘Until the end of the world’ – and think about Judas’ experience of Maundy Thursday – the friend who couldn’t wait but had to act:


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Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


I haven’t watched Mel Gibson’s film The Passion, because I don’t think I could bear the brutality of the portrayal of Jesus’ torture and death. But the reality is, that his death was brutal: a method of torture created, it is believed, by the Persians, and perfected by the Romans.

And before the physical torture came the mental and emotional pain. The questioning and disbelief of the High Priest, the cowardice of Pilot, the betrayal of the crowd baying ‘Barabbas’’, and the mocking faces as he stumbled through the streets carrying his own murder weapon.

Weeks, perhaps even months beforehand, Jesus had said to his disciples ‘whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23). I imagine at the time, they thought ‘Yeah, ok… how hard can it be?’ but as they stood at the roadside, heads bowed so as not be recognised, or catch his eye, I wonder if the realisation dawned of what Jesus was pointing to. Trusting in God, when things are going well, is easy. It is easy to sing worship songs when the sun is shining and life is good! But faith, is about the times when it is not so easy, when it is difficult to sense God’s presence in a dark situation, or the right course of action is hard and costly. The good news is, that whilst we daily take up our cross, whatever form it takes, we know that Jesus is taking up the heavy end. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to hurt and chafe, but it does mean that it is not going to break us!

Food for the journey

Take two palm sized rocks and stand with them in your hands, with your arms outstretched as if you were on the cross. Hold this position, for as long as you can (it will hurt!). As you do this, imagine that the reason that your arms are in so much pain is because they are carrying the weight of your whole body instead of two rocks, and that you cannot breathe because you cannot relieve the weight on your chest because to use your legs to brace yourself requires pressure on the nail through your feet. If you have a good imagination you might get somewhere close to sensing a small amount of what Jesus suffered as he died for you.

As you put the rocks down, kneel at the feet of Jesus still hanging on that cross. Think about the times that you have felt separated from God, the times when you have known that something in your life is getting in the way of your relationship with him…. Again you are somewhere close to sensing a small amount of what Jesus suffered as he faced the desolation of his purity and holiness  as he was contaminated with all the wrongs of the world. Thank him that because of this single act we can now stand in front of God, not just beloved, but righteous in His eyes.

Hand over those rocks, as a symbol of the burdens you have been carrying – sins,worries, pain, pride, fears and desires – leave the rocks there as a reminder on other days that you pass them, that Jesus is saying to you, everyday, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul’ Matthew 11:28-30


Accompanying children and young people
  • Go for a walk and find as many different things to make crosses out of: sticks, reeds, macdonalds’ straws, etc. Find a quiet space to make the crosses and stick them in or lay them on the ground. Talk about what each cross means to you and why
  • Fill a shallow tray with a water and cornflour mix (fluid enough that the line disappears just after your finger as you move it through the mixture). Take it in turns to write or draw what you want to say sorry to God for. Together thank him that these things have now been forgiven and forgotten because of what Jesus did on the cross

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”Easter Saturday – Waiting”]

Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Between the utter despair of crucifixion and the triumphant celebration of Resurrection we find the day referred to by some parts of the Church as Holy Saturday. Marking the end of Holy Week, it is a time for reflection and waiting as we think of Jesus’ broken body laid to rest in the tomb while His devastated and terrified band of followers remained together, uncertain of what was to come.

Food for the journey

It is vital we have the Saturday because it is what prevents us from placing the death and resurrection together as if they were one event. We risk misinterpreting the horror and finality of what happened on the cross as Christ’s spirit simply discarding the shell He had used for a while to communicate with His creation. Holy Saturday can be seen as a gift to us in that it pushes aside any doubts of the absolute death of Jesus Christ on the Friday and makes the resurrection of that same God-Man such an utterly transformative reality for humanity on Easter Sunday. Just as Lucy and Susan must face the misery of Aslans’ cruel death in C. S. Lewis’s famous tale, so this is the day when we can embrace the total desolation and hopelessness that make the possibility of things being made right so far from our understanding. There is so much to praise God for in His unfathomable riches but that is for tomorrow . . .

In a lecture given at Oxford CYM, Dr. Andrew Root developed this idea further to suggest that it is vital we, as Christians, learn to live in this place between the Friday and the Sunday. In a world where so many experience pain and suffering it is not always enough to seek to move directly to the Sunday where all may be well but rather to walk alongside those we encounter through the difficulties and pain.

Having watched the brilliant Les Miserables on DVD this week I was reminded of Susan Boyle’s rendition of the epic ‘I dreamed a dream’ on Britain’s Got Talent. At the time, the link below became the most watched YouTube clip so far. It isn’t always easy to understand how the crowd could turn so quickly from praise for Jesus on Palm Sunday to total derision within days yet this clip reminds us just how fickle and quick to judge we may be. Perhaps it’s a very personal theological reflection but I found that in contemplating Jesus’ disciples, and particularly of his mother Mary struggling to comprehend what had happened to the child she raised, the words of this song seemed to take on a meaning beyond the writers intentions.



Accompanying children and young people
  • Earlier in the day you could make an Easter basket with a group of children, such as the one pictured below. Sometimes called Paschal eggs, an egg has long been seen as symbolizing the stone that sealed the tomb as well as representing new life. Making a basket and painting some eggs is an excellent way of preparing for the joy of Easter Sunday.

  • Once it gets dark you might try spending a few minutes in silence together thinking about the cross and bringing to mind things that we would want to put to death in our own lives. Things we are sorry to God for.
  • Then in lighting a candle, or even better a fire (in a safe place!) outside, begin to look forward to the promise of Sunday, offering praise that the light of the world has come.

If it’s helpful you could finish by saying this prayer together.

Prayer from the Divine Office for Holy Saturday

Almighty, ever-living God,

whose only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead,

and rose from there to glory,

grant that your faithful people,

who were buried with him in baptism,

may, by his resurrection, obtain eternal life.

We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God for ever and ever. Amen


[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”Easter Sunday – The Road to Emmaus”]

Our journey through Holy Week

God of our journey, as we walk with you on your path of obedience, sustain us on our way and lead us to your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Today we celebrate Jesus Resurrection and we reflect upon how his friends would have reacted to the news . . .

We are familiar with the scenes of the disciples walking from Jerusalem after the crucifixion to Emmaus when Jesus joined them for the journey, they did not recognise him until he broke bread . . .

Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared. Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?” Luke 24:31-32

Food for the journey

Today in all your encounters with people invite Jesus to join you in your conversations, look for him in those you meet today. Do not be as the disciples were, not looking, closed to Jesus presence with them, we are told that when we seek we shall find.

Accompanying children and young people

The Disciples only became aware of Jesus when he blessed and broke bread. For your Easter celebrations invite a child or young person to break bread or serve a meal, pour a cup of squash or tea and write a blessing together to be said by those gathered.  How can this blessing be a way for young people to have their eyes opened and recognise Jesus?

Our eyes are kept from recognising you

Open our eyes, Lord.
Without the gift of your revelation,
our eyes are kept from recognising you.

Appear before us, suddenly, unexpectedly, in all your glory.
So that we, too, may proclaim to a world in despair,
that we have seen the risen Lord.

by Nathan Bierma, inspired by a sermon on Luke 24 by John Witvliet.

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